New Volkswagen Chattanooga Chief Executive Tom du Plessis has lots of experience when it comes to bringing models to the marketplace.
At his former post for VW in China, where the automaker is the top seller of cars in the world's No. 1 market with a huge production presence, he oversaw 43 new vehicle launches, he says.
"The key to success was teamwork and preparation and that includes training and development," says du Plessis, the 58-year-old veteran of the German carmaker who took the local plant's steering wheel in July.
The CEO, who studied engineering at the University of Pretoria in his home country of South Africa, said the transition to his new role will have to be "seamless" at the Chattanooga plant that employs about 3,800 workers.
This year, the VW executive is overseeing two vehicle launches in Chattanooga — the five-seat Atlas SUV and the 2020 Passat sedan — and the start of work on an $800 million expansion to produce battery-powered vehicles.
Also, his team at the Enterprise South industrial park assembly plant will begin the hiring for 1,000 new employees related to the expansion, in which VW plans to produce a new all-electric SUV by 2022.
The VW Chattanooga CEO, who was director of production at multiple plants in China for the last five years, took over for Frank Fischer. Fischer was a former Chattanooga plant chief who returned on an indefinite basis when ex-CEO Antonio Pinto took a new post in May.
"I really look forward to becoming part of the community," du Plessis says.
One feature of the VW Chattanooga operation he likes is the Volkswagen Academy, a state-of-the-art training facility for new and existing workers.
"We didn't have a training facility like this" in China, says du Plessis, who oversaw nine car plants, two engine factories, a battery assembly facility and 24,000 employees. "It's a great opportunity. We have to utilize it."
The new chief has 11 years at VW, starting at a plant in South Africa. Before that, he worked for automaker Toyota for nine years, he says.
Married and with two children, du Plessis says it's both "an interesting time and also a positive time" in Chattanooga.